8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY january 18-24, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com news The sound of mariachi music and a display of balloons accompanied the grand opening of Vallarta Supermarket in Salinas last November. The new store brought to life the abandoned Kmart building at Laurel West Shopping Center, which closed in 2019. “It’s nice to see that shopping center get used again,” says Salinas City Councilmember Andrew Sandoval, noting residents were concerned about the blighted property and potential for illegal activities, including drug use and prostitution. “[Now] the parking lot is so busy. That’s been a big improvement to that area.” (The store is located in District 5 in North Salinas, which Sandoval represents.) Early last year, the Southern California-based supermarket chain with over 50 stores across the state requested a permit to open a store in Salinas, and it opened before year-end. The building is a little less bright than originally envisioned—Vallarta wanted to paint the exterior freshly white, and instead was directed by the city to go with beige and more muted tones. But it still has an effect of brightening the area. “As part of the project approval, there are conditions to refresh the shopping center,” says Lisa Brinton, Salinas’ community development director. “We want to make sure that the landscaping and parking areas are maintained and safe with adequate lighting.” Thanks to Vallarta, the Laurel West shopping center now has new landscaping, trees, and an updated parking lot. Vallarta Supermarkets also plans to open a new store at another former Kmart location in Watsonville. Before opening in Salinas two months ago, the closest location was in the Central Valley. Market High Vallarta, a new Mexican grocery store, revitalizes an old Kmart on Davis Road in Salinas. By Celia Jiménez Ronald Britt, pastor of Seaside’s Greater Victory Temple, speaks to God often, and trusts that no matter what happens, it’s all part of God’s plan. “When I became the pastor, the lord said to me, find a way to stabilize the church’s finances,” he says. “Find revenue for the church.” The church’s congregation has shrunk over the years, Britt says, and one idea he had to create revenue for the church was housing. Initially, he thought perhaps the church should buy a house to rent out, but John Nash Sr., one of Greater Victory’s deacons, told Britt, as Britt recalls, “We can build on our property.” Starting this summer, that is set to happen. Greater Victory itself isn’t building the housing—that will be done by the developer of Seaside’s nascent Campus Town development, Danny Bakewell Jr., whose company KB Bakewell is set to break ground this summer on a 21-unit affordable housing building on Greater Victory’s property, in part of its parking lot, that will help Campus Town fulfill its obligation to meet Seaside’s inclusionary housing requirements and incentives. All of the units are slated to be for very-low-income residents. Per the approved agreements with the city for Campus Town, KB Bakewell is obligated to provide 45 offsite affordable housing units—the Greater Victory project will account for almost half of them. The Seaside Planning Commission approved the project on Jan. 10, and the only public feedback was in support of the project, so an appeal to City Council is unlikely, and probably not possible—unless there are objections raised in public comment or in writing, Seaside City Attorney Sheri Damon says one can’t appeal a Planning Commission decision. California’s Senate Bill 4, aka Yes In God’s Backyard Bill, was passed in 2023 and enables affordable housing to be permitted and built on church property relatively quickly, bypassing red tape. Bakewell expects the Greater Victory project will take only six to eight months to build. It will be on the southeast of the church’s property. Once built, it will be given to the church to manage. When asked how much revenue the project might help bring Greater Victory, Britt says, “I don’t know. But I’m quite sure this will be a blessing for the church.” The church and its land have long been paid off, but the church itself is about a 25,000-square-foot building that’s not getting younger, and requires maintenance, Britt says. Aside from upkeep costs, Britt says he hopes any revenue the project can generate for the church will go toward doing more ministry and outreach in the community, while at the same time helping “those less fortunate than we are.” His congregation is fully on board with that mission, he adds, and that other Seaside churches are watching closely. “Greater Victory is always the pilot program,” Britt says. “Everyone is always looking at what we’re doing. Other churches that want to do it, they’re waiting to see how this project works out.” Bakewell Jr. sees nothing but roses coming up. “This is one of those projects that I’m very excited about,” he says. “Here’s a church that’s well known in the community, getting 21 units of free housing, free development in the community. I think everyone is excited about it.” A rendering of the planned 21-unit very-low-income housing project at Greater Victory Temple in Seaside, as seen from Yosemite Street. On a Prayer Seaside’s Greater Victory Temple is set to be Peninsula’s first church with affordable housing on its property. By David Schmalz Vallarta Supermarket in Salinas now offers a butcher shop, bakery, fresh produce, packaged groceries and more in the 84,180-square-foot building that has been vacant since 2019. “I’m quite sure this will be a blessing for the church.” Courtesy of KB Bakewell Daniel Dreifuss